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Guarding the Tongue

From Al-Adhkaar of Imam An-Nawawi
© Al-Muntaqaa Newsletter Volume1 Issue 1 January 2000

Allaah the Most High says:

“Not a word does one utter, except that there is an (angel) Watching, Ready to record it.” [Surah Qaaf: 18]

Know that every individual who falls under the category of being responsible for his actions (mukallaf) must safeguard his tongue from all types of speech , except for that speech which consists primarily of some benefit.

So when speaking and refraining from speech are both found to contain the same amount of benefit within them, then the Sunnah is to refrain from it, altogether. This is because the allowable speech (equal in benefit and harm) paves the way towards that which is forbidden as well as disliked. Rather, in most cases, this will be the outcome and applying safety, at that point, will not be able to soothe it in the least.

Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet said:

"Whosoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day, then let him speak good or remain silent."

[Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree]

This hadeeth, of which the scholars have agreed upon its authenticity, is a clear proof that one should not talk, unless his speech is good—and that is the speech that consists primarily of benefit. So if one has doubt as to whether or not his speech consists of benefit, then he should not speak. Imaam Ash-Shaafi'ee (rahimahullaah) said: "When one desires to talk, then it is upon him to think before he speaks. If there is beneficial good in what he will say, then he should speak. And if he has doubt about that, then he must not speak until he clears that doubt (by making his speech good)."

Abu Moosaa Al-Ash'aree said:

"I said: 'O Messenger of Allaah Which of the Muslims is best?' He said: 'He whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe from.'"

[Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim]

Sahl Ibn Sa'ad reported that the Messenger of Allaah said:

"Whosoever can guarantee for me (that he will safeguard) what is between his jaws (tongue) and what is between his legs (private parts), I will guarantee for him Paradise."

[Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree]

Abu Hurairah reported that he heard the Prophet say:

"Indeed, the servant will speak a word, while being unaware of (its consequences), and due to it, he will be cast into the Hellfire, farther than the distance between the east and the west."

[Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim]

The meaning of "while being unaware" is that he does not stop to consider whether his speech is good or not.

Sufyaan Ibn 'Abdillaah reported that he said:

"O Messenger of Allaah , tell me of a matter that I may cling tightly onto.' He said: 'Say: I believe in Allaah and then remain steadfast (upon that).’ I said: 'O Messenger of Allaah , what is the most serious thing that I should fear for myself?' So he took a hold of his tongue and said: 'This.'"

[An authentic hadeeth reported by At-Tirmidhee, Ibn Maajah and others]

'Uqbah Ibn 'Aamir reported:

"I said: 'O Messenger of Allaah , how does one attain salvation?' He r said: 'Restrain your tongue, remain in your home and weep over your sins.'"

[An authentic hadeeth reported by Ibn Al-Mubaarak in Az-Zuhd and it has support in Ahmad]

Abu Sa'eed Al-Khudree reported that the Prophet said:

“When the Son of Aadam wakes from his sleep, all of his body parts seek refuge from his tongue, saying: ‘Fear Allaah with regard to us, for indeed we are part of you. So if you are correct, then we will be correct and if you are corrupted, then we shall be corrupted.”

[A hasan hadeeth reported by At-Tirmidhee and others]